8 Principles of Collaborative Leadership
The Risk When a Values-Driven Company Like Patagonia Takes a Stand

people pleasing

Guest post by Scott Mautz

Emily Colburn, a 36 year-old marketing director in a mid-sized consumer goods company on the West Coast, was squarely planted among the nearly 70% of us that research indicates have “lost that lovin’ feeling” at work. The inspiration she used to feel in her job, the full-on passion for it, had waned considerably.

She had risen quickly by using her intelligence in people pleasing to understand what was needed and to deliver excellent results and customer service. No matter what the challenge, she always said, “yes” and then delivered on it. She was respected and liked by her boss, co-workers and customers. But the same strength that had gotten her this far, was starting to work against her.

The People Pleasing Problem

The problem was Emily had a hard time saying “no.” People pleasing was more important to her than her own needs. The price she paid was suppressing what she really felt, and it had started to sap her passion.

The more her boss asked of her and the more she did, the more her work load increased and the more stuck and powerless she felt. The last straw occurred one day when her boss pulled her aside and said, “We just got this week’s sales numbers. We’re down again and Home Office is calling a meeting for tomorrow. I need to present an analysis on why we’re declining. I know you’re meeting with some key accounts today to resolve the issues causing our declining sales, but I need you to help me prepare for this meeting instead. I don’t want to look like a fool.”

Emily’s response was the usual “You got it!” even though inside she was screaming “Hell no!” Instead of pushing back, she had succumbed to an out-of-touch command to stop actually working on the problem and instead spend time on crafting a self-preserving story about the problem.

That was the moment Emily felt her last wisp of inspiration willingly impale itself on her letter opener. She knew something had to change.

4 Tips to Break the People Pleasing Habit

Emily’s situation is not unique. It’s not uncommon to lose your passion mid-career. Often, what gets us to so far is not what is going to get us farther. For Emily, the issue was “people-pleasing” for others it might be something else. But fortunately, it usually just takes a mid-course correction to refocus. And recognizing you have lost your passion and wanting to regain it is the first step.

Emily made the shift by following these four powerful principles:

  1. Commit to 90% self-worth, 10% assigned-worth. How you feel about yourself should flow dominantly from your own self-appreciation and self-acceptance. Emily’s was assigning 100% of her worth to what others thought of her. It was producing a fool’s errand; a never-ending chase for approval when Emily should have been pursuing authenticity instead.
  1. Focus on the “you-niverse,” not the universe. Start with yourself (the “You” in “You-niverse”) and set healthy boundaries that allow you to take care of your needs first. It’s impossible to be everything for everybody. Emily had an aha moment when she realized her over-focus on people-pleasing was actually selfish because it allowed her to avoid conflict, which she hated. A slight shift in orientation enables you to stay balanced, charged, and better able to serve others in a more authentic way.
  1. Spot the difference between compassion and compulsion. Be alert to what you are feeling before your typical pattern kicks in, rather than just acting robotically. What is your motivation? If your response is out of kindness, great. But if your motivation is to avoid conflict or get approval, you will notice your passion diminish if you let your pattern take over.
  1. Break the mirror. When your pattern is running you, you act like a mirror that just reflects back the person you’re in front of at the time. It cheats the world of the real you and limits your options. People will have greater respect and trust for you when they experience you as authentic. Think of the mirror metaphor when you notice your typical pattern kicking in.

Since Emily put into practice all of the above, she got promoted (into her boss’s job) and has fallen in love with her job again.

And you can too!


Scott Mautz is author of the new book: Find the Fire: Reignite Your Inspiration & Make Work Exciting Again. Download the free Find the Fire companion workbook at scottmautz.com. Get Scott’s free e-book to help you become a Once-in-a-Career Coach. Get Scott’s free leadership toolkit (including 8 Ways to Grant Intelligent Autonomy, Risk Taking Conversation Starters, Top 10 Characteristics of the Best Leaders, Top Behaviors of Rising Star Leaders, 11 Inactions That Will Kill Your Reputation as a Leader, 10 Insights on Inspirational Leadership, The Authenticity Code of Conduct, Purpose Power Questions, & more). Scott is also a popular keynote speaker, P&G veteran, Inc. columnist, and Indiana University adjunct professor.


8 Principles of Collaborative Leadership
The Risk When a Values-Driven Company Like Patagonia Takes a Stand

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